New lifeguards may think of cleaning or maintenance as nothing more than busywork to get the most out of the money we spend on staff. However, maintenance actually serves many invaluable purposes. Let’s take a look at a few of them, before we get into the general maintenance procedures that nearly every facility should be performing.
Maintenance as Maintenance
No, that’s not a typo. Maintenance and cleaning primarily serve one important function, maintaining the things being cleaned and serviced. That may seem simultaneously obvious and inaccurate, when you look at examples. So let’s look at cleaning procedures that statement might seem inaccurate about, and see if it actually is accurate.
Let’s look at cleaning your decks. Every pool has them, and every pool (should) clean them, most likely daily. But to maintain them? Absolutely! With this example, sure, the first thing we think is that we want them to be cleaned after high use in order to dispose of food left behind, or dirt and pebbles carried in, but let’s take a broader approach/view.
If we didn’t clean the decks, eventually they would be so covered with left behind food, ants, build up of dirt and other things tracked in that they would no longer serve their purpose; providing a safe means of walking in the pool area.
So, even in cases as simple as cleaning your decks, it is essential to perform routine cleaning and maintenance in order to keep them functioning properly. Or, to put it another way, to maintain their function.
Maintenance as Cleaning
Those two words, maintenance and cleaning, in the aquatics environment in particular, are often interchangeable. That’s in part because they are so closely related in many of the tasks we (or our staff) perform every day. But the bottom line is that cleaning, and keeping things clean, is an important function of any maintenance/cleaning procedure.
No one would prefer to purchase food from a restaurant that is dirty, has leftover food sitting around, and splattered on the floors and walls, when they could go to a clean and tidy restaurant instead. Some of us would even go hungry rather than eat at the first place I described and get sick!
The same goes for swimming pools and our facilities. People want to come to a clean environment, where they aren’t worried that everything they do there is going to make them ill. Keeping your facility clean through maintenance procedures is important to creating an inviting aquatic environment that people want to come to, and will want to continue to patronize.
Maintenance for Patrons
Many pool operators work for governmental entities in one form or another; whether that is a city or county municipality, a homeowner’s association, or a public organization, and for those who do, many of the patrons hold the belief that their taxes pay the salaries of the employees, and for the facilities themselves. This may or may not be true, depending on your organization, but even if it isn’t completely true, it is their perception, so for them, it is true.
Even if you work for a private organization, patrons often believe similar things about the fees they pay. And again, true or not, what they believe is the most important thing.
So as much as we (and especially our staff) don’t like it, we need to always make a positive impression on our patrons and make sure they know and believe that we are putting “their money” to good use.
Which is to say that the last reason we’ll talk about for performing (and having staff perform) maintenance procedures, is that it creates a positive, hard working image of you, and your employees. Which will certainly help next time your organization needs help from the community, whether in the form of tax or fee increases, or even recruiting new lifeguards to work.
For more on the merits of maintenance, check out our other related blog about Preventative Maintenance Tactics.
General Maintenance Procedures
Now that we’ve talked about some of the reasons organized maintenance procedures are important, let’s look at some specific maintenance procedures that (nearly) all facilities should be completing regularly.
Keep in mind that the frequency with which these tasks will need to be completed could vary greatly depending on several factors. The four key factors being:
- Amount of patron usage
- Type of patron usage
- Availability of time to maintain/clean
- Type of maintenance/cleaning
So if you have a high traffic section of the pool deck where people frequently eat, that needs to close down before the rest of your pool and it is probably best that it be cleaned daily.
And alternatively, if you have a section that sees infrequent use, never has any food near it, and is open during all open times, it is probably only necessary to clean it once a week or so.
Now that we’ve clarified that, let’s talk about some specific types of maintenance/cleaning!
Decks - Nightly Cleaning
In the scenarios presented above it was clear that there are differences in usage of decks that warrant different procedures. Minimally, all decks will need to be cleaned nightly, though not necessarily all to the same degree. Here is a list of things that all decks should be cleaned off each night:
- Food of any kind
- Foot traffic debris
- Standing water
- Chemicals (cleaning or pool use)
Most of what will be encountered is best cleaned with a hose and simply rinsing the food, debris, or chemical into a drain. For gum, it’ll likely require some elbow grease to clean off.
You may be wondering why we use a hose, if standing water is on the list of things to be cleaned each night. Not all facilities, especially aging ones, have perfectly slanted decks that mean all water drains off by itself. And if it doesn’t standing water can, if frequently left, even develop algae! So it’s important to make sure standing water areas are dried (or brushed at least enough so there aren’t puddles) nightly.
Decks - High-traffic weekly maintenance
If you have high traffic areas; areas that see more foot traffic than the rest of your decks, they can become more slick from increased wear and deposits from foot traffic. In those places it may be necessary (or minimally advisable) to bleach (1 to 10 part mixture of bleach to water will do) and scrub (stiff bristled brushes work well) them weekly in order to maintain the deckings non-slip texture, and prevent possible injuries. Always be sure to thoroughly rinse the area with water. If you don’t the bleach left there could have the opposite effect of the scrubbing!
Decks - Spot/Response Cleaning
Aside from the daily, and weekly cleaning of decks, there will of course be instances during open/operating hours in which you or your staff may need to immediately clean off a portion of the deck whether it’s food spilled in a high-traffic area, or a bloody nose trail to your first aid room.
For these instances, obviously it’s not advisable or sanitary to wait until closing, or an opportune time. What works best, since dragging a hose across your deck while people are all around can create other issues and hazards, is a simple mixture of bleach and water (1 part bleach to 10 parts water, as above) in a bucket, using a stiff scrubbing brush dipped in the water, clean the area as needed. Then, simply rinse the area with a second bucket of just water.
Stainless Steel Cleaning / Maintenance
Stainless steel is commonly used in the aquatic environment. I’m comfortable saying that everyone will have some piece of equipment in their facility that is stainless steel. Whether it’s your lifeguard stands, pool railings, lane rope or tarp rollers, or even your water fountains, they will need to be cleaned periodically in order to keep them functioning properly, and looking pretty.
A simple stainless steel cleaner is sufficient to keep the steel shining brightly, and also does a great job of keeping the harsh aquatic environment from clogging, rusting (the bits that aren’t stainless), or otherwise interfering with your equipment.
Though it’s not dangerous, and it doesn’t affect the lifetime of them, windows (if your facility has them in the pool area) that aren’t clean are certainly not good looking, and don’t instill the sense that you and you staff have an attention to detail in the patrons that see them.
SPECIAL TIP: If you’re having trouble getting windows clean, classically printed newspapers, used with normal window cleaner (use slightly less), will give you a streak-free clean!
Another maintenance procedure that isn’t going to affect safety, is emptying trash at facilities. Dependent on the type of facility, the amount of trash generated will be different.
For most family oriented facilities, the trash will likely contain food, dirty diapers, and all manner of objectionable material. These types of facilities will likely need to empty their trash receptacles nightly. You may be able to combine the contents of the trashcans if they aren’t all full to avoid excessive waste of trashcan liners.
If your pool doesn’t generate much waste that needs to be emptied daily, minimally it should be checked daily and emptied when the contents are more full or include waste that gets, in a word, gross.
Trash - High-Usage Weekly Maintenance
If your trash receptacles see a lot of use throughout the week, it is inevitable that in the bottom of them collections of liquids, missed pieces of trash and other waste will pool / collect in the bottom. This is what, most often, makes trash receptacles stink.
I highly recommend bleaching, scrubbing, and then rinsing out the insides of your trash containers periodically. Whether it’s one a night, all of them the first weekend of the month, or a few every weekend, cleaning them regularly will keep them cleaner and less offensive to use.
Special Features - Weekly Maintenance and Cleaning
If your facility has other special features, such as diving boards, or slides, they will likely require specific maintenance of their own. They’ll also likely require the daily “cleaning” type of maintenance as well as the more serious mechanical maintenance. So always be sure to set procedures in accordance with manufacturer’s suggestions and any applicable laws.
Often times, there will be areas that would benefit from cleaning and maintenance that aren’t explicitly part of the special feature itself, or listed as being necessary maintenance. Whether that’s the stairs leading up to the slide, or the diving board ladder, keep in mind that anywhere people use features regularly will need some type of periodic maintenance. You can develop a procedure to ensure your features are in tip top shape, and people are safe in using them.
Have any other common maintenance you perform at your facility? Any “pro-tips” on any of the above maintenance? Let us know!